No matter your sport, athletes require a support team. Each athlete support team is as unique as the athlete themselves. Let’s review the individuals that may be included in your support team as an athlete and how your athletic performance can benefit from having these professionals in your court.
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No surprise here! A sports dietitian or registered dietitian (RD) can you dial in your fueling and is a valuable reference when deciding to take a supplement. Sports dietitians and RDs have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, complete a dietetic internship, pass a board certification exam and complete continuing education in order to maintain their certification. It is important to keep in mind that the term nutritionist doesn’t always guarantee that the individual you are working with is educated in the same fashion as a RD. Certain states have protected the title of nutritionist so dietitians may be referred to as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). RD and RDNs are especially important for athletes who have food allergies, are suffering with injuries (especially bone related injuries such as stress fractures) and athletes who are struggling with an eating disorder.
A coach can play a vital role in helping you reach your athletic goals. A coach helps cycle your training so that you have adequate time to recover between workouts and are ready to compete. Depending on your athletic level, you may or may not have the opportunity to choose your coach. Communication is the foundation of a solid coach-athlete relationship. Coaches have a variety of experiences and education ranging from on the job training to a college degree.
A sports acupuncturist can be an asset while you're training and during the off season. Acupuncturists are required to hold a masters or doctorate degree, acquire a state license and/or become certified through the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAO). These requirements vary by state. Sports acupuncturists have the ability to pinpoint specific muscles that need to be targeted to allow the muscle to function properly or to provide pain relief.
Licensed Massage Therapist
A massage therapist can be important in helping your body recover from training and to prepare your body for competition & games. Massage can be beneficial for regular body maintenance as well as injury treatment. When injured, a massage therapist that is familiar with your body can be helpful in getting tissues to return to or as close to your pre-injury self as possible.
Athletic Trainer or Physical Therapist
In high school and collegiate sports, athletic trainers are usually the first on the scene of an injury during competition. Athletic trainers and physical therapists are essential for helping athletes strengthen their muscle weaknesses in order to avoid an injury. They are also important in assisting athletes while healing an injury and recovering from surgery. Athletic trainers are required to earn a bachelor’s degree but the majority of athletic trainers have a master’s degree. Physical therapists hold both a bachelor’s and doctorate degree. They also have the opportunity to complete clinical hours and take a board exam in order to become board certified in a number of specialty areas of practice.
A chiropractor can help an athlete maintain skeletal health and correct compensation type patterns that may occur when an injury affects your movement patterns. In my experience, a chiropractor that specializes in functional neurology has been beneficial to provide regular maintenance, to treat injury and recovery from surgery. Functional neurology uses exercises that involve eye movements to help rewire nerve patterns.
Primary Care or Sports Medicine Physician
A primary care or sports medicine physician is one of most important members of your support team. Having a physician that you feel comfortable expressing any concerns or navigating an injury with is huge! A primary care physician is important to maintaining your health both in and out of sport. They can provide care for injuries and often will refer you to a specialist if needed. A sports medicine physician can provide both surgical and nonsurgical care for sports related injuries.
If you are local to the Marquette area, I have personally worked with and recommend the following individuals to build your support team:
Acupuncture: MQT Acupuncture and Bodywork
Massage Therapy: Sam Crowley, CMT
Chiropractor: Horizon Healthworks
Primary Care: Singletrack Health
Sports Medicine Physician: Advanced Center for Orthopedics
Image by Lahti Photography